London: The world's first lab-grown beef burger, costing a whopping 215,000 pounds, was cooked up and tasted in public Monday and experts say it is "close to meat" but lacks fat and flavour.
The "cultured beef" burger in a petri dish, was created after five years of research at an institute in the Netherlands by taking cells from a cow, which experts say could start of a food revolution.
The 5oz patty, dubbed 'Frankenburger' by some sections of the British media, was unveiled for the first time by creator Professor Mark Post from Maastricht University, at a press conference in Hammersmith, west London.
The scientist-turned-chef made the most expensive beef burger in history from 20,000 tiny strips of meat grown from cow stem cells over a three-month period.
Professor Post believes his artificial meat - known by the rather unappetising title "in-vitro meat" - could herald a food revolution and appear in supermarkets within the next 10 to 20 years.
Sergey Brin, the billionaire co-founder of Google, has been revealed as the mystery backer behind the project. He has invested 215,000 pounds of his own money towards the research, saying he was doing it for "animal welfare reasons".
The beef-like product was injected with red beet juice and saffron as well breadcrumbs to bring it as close to the real thing.
It was cooked in a frying pan in front of a live audience by chef Richard Haake, who described the cooking process as similar to real meat.
"It is like any other beef burger I have cooked before and looks and smells as appetising," he said as he cooked the burger in sunflower oil and dollops of butter before serving it up to the official taster.
"The texture and mouth-feel is familiar and like a real bite of meat. But there was an obvious absence of fat that felt less juicy than a beef burger," said taster Josh Schonwald, author of 'The Taste of Tomorrow'.
He said the technology could be one of many ways to ensure there is enough meat to feed an expanding world population in an ethical way.
Asked if he would feed the fake burger to his children, Professor Post added: "They are in fact quite jealous that they haven't got to taste it yet. I would be very comfortable to let my children taste it."
"The purpose of this exercise was to show that the technology exists and can be a sustainable and environmentally friendly way to feed people in the future. The same technique can be transferred to any other kind of meat ? chicken, fish or lamb," Professor Post said.
His team at the University of Maastricht conducted experiments which progressed from mouse meat to pork and finally beef.
Experts say 1 kg of meat requires up to 10 kg of crops to produce, making it a highly inefficient method of turning plants into human food, whereas synthetic meat uses about 2 kg of feed.
Research by Oxford University scientists in 2011 estimated that cultured meat needs 99 percent less land than livestock, between 82 percent and 96 percent less water, and produces between 78 percent and 95 percent less greenhouse gas.
The UK's Food Standards Agency (FSA) said that before going on sale, synthetic meat would need regulatory approval, with manufacturers needing to prove that all necessary safety tests had been carried out.
In a statement, animal welfare campaigners People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) said: "[Lab-grown meat] will spell the end of lorries full of cows and chickens, abattoirs and factory farming. It will reduce carbon emissions, conserve water and make the food supply safer."
First Published: Monday, August 5, 2013, 19:19